University of Vermont AAHS


Hot Weather Hazards

Jan Dawson
President, AAHS

[Reproduced from Caution:Horses, Vol. 2, No. 3 Summer 1997]

Summer riding presents many difficulties, but none so serious as in the hot, humid areas such as the Gulfcoast.

The often forgotten sufferer is our partner, the horse. In many areas if the horse working in the heat of the summer is sweating and has opportunities to drink fresh clean water, there need be no more worries. This is not so for the horses working in the semi-tropical areas. When heat and humidity are both high, the horse may sweat, but the sweat will not evaporate, so it is necessary to have some "alcohol water" handy to keep the horse cool. One pint of alcohol in two and one half gallons of water is a good starting place. Some prefer a stronger solution. The alcohol solution will evaporate in higher humidity and it is the evaporation that cools the horse. Put the solution an the jugular grooves, belly and inside of the hind legs.

Our veterinarians also recommend the addition of electrolytes to the feed once or twice a day whenever the temperature plus the humidity equal 140 degrees.

One should also consider the addition of selenium and vitamin E to the diet of the horse in hot weather as a preventative for tying-up, a problem which seems to plague the large muscled horses working in hot weather more than the long-muscled, rangy individuals.

One should also keep a close eye on one's horse's respiration and when it becomes elevated should give the horse an opportunity to rest while walking, Allowing the horse to stop and remain motionless while catching his breath may make him worse rather than better.

One should be especially careful if the horse's respiration is elevating yet the horse is not sweating and immediately get some cool water on the larger blood vessels such as on the neck, belly and inside the hind legs.

For riders, we do the same thing with a wet bandanna. One on also use the neck ties that are to be soaked in ice water and then tied around the neck. The crystals inside become an ice cold gel that will cool the neck and hence the rider for several hours.

The bug problem on also become more than an annoyance, it can be a danger. flies can cause kicking accidents and runaways. Riders have also been bucked off due to a horse's annoyance with a bug. Always have fly spray handy and if flies are bothersome in one's area, do not go out without it. You may even wish to ask your veterinarian to suggest a stronger mixture in the areas where the flies have become especially tolerant of the natural and more gentle repellents.

Gentle suggestions for fly repellent include vinegar, citronella oil, Skin-So-Soft bath oil mixed 1:5 with water. Remember, there are some indications that too high an oil concentration on the hair coat of a horse may interfere with the horse’s ability to sweat.

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